Ask, Seek, Knock

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Last night as I nursed my son to sleep, my senses dulled by darkness and the hum of the fan, I felt his hand open and close, open and close, open and close around two fingers on my left one. This movement was no longer an infant’s reflex but a repeated gesture of comfort and love. What a marvelous thing to ponder in my heart as rest overcame both of us after a hard day.

A few sermons ago our preacher chose the text in Matthew chapter seven that discusses God’s propensity to give us good gifts when we ask. Ask, seek, knock.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children,

how much more shall your Father which is in heaven

give good things to them that ask him?

As I rest with my son, I dream of all the good gifts I want to instill in him and present to him. One of those good gifts is the restraint necessary, out of my parental love for him, not to give him everything he asks for. Because he is a child, unwise and unsure of this world. It is my responsibility to use his requests, in combination with the good gifts for which he doesn’t know to ask, to shape and mold him into a strong, loving, just, Christian man.

If this beautiful dynamic can be seen through myself the sinner and my tiny son with the soft, strong hands, how much more glorious is it when magnified by the love, wisdom, and providence of my Father?

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Review of The Bradley Method

I’ve mentioned that we were completing Bradley Method courses several times over the past few months. Our last class (party!) is Thursday, so I thought I would type up a little review of The Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Natural Childbirth.

Our midwife, Carolyn, requires all of her clients who  are experiencing their first pregnancies to complete a first time mothers’ program. This includes attending parenting classes at her home, hiring a professional doula, paying for extra midwifery support (one or two apprentices) at the delivery, and completing either Hypnobabies or The Bradley Method courses. Having done some freelance work for a hypnotherapist in the past, I knew that Hypnobabies probably wouldn’t be helpful for us. Luckily, a Bradley course is offered in Birmingham. We signed-up with a little trepidation about spending $350.00 and sacrificing our Thursday nights for three entire months.

No matter how our birth turns out, I am absolutely positive that we will not regret completing the Bradley Method training.

Here’s why:

Fellowship

When doing something a little strange like planning to pop out a child minus the socially expected cocktail of narcotics and medical interventions (or hospital, for that matter), nothing is more comforting or reassuring than sitting in a room full of like-minded people. All week long, I (and Cody, too, I’m sure) politely respond to sarcastic remarks, ignorance, dismay, and raised eyebrows about our desire to bring forth our child via a natural, unmedicated delivery. Sitting in our Bradley classroom for two hours on Thursday nights has been a welcome refuge from skepticism and negativity. We have gotten to know six other couples who desire the same type of birth as we do, have read the same books, recognize the same myths, and are making the same plans for their babies as we are. Our Bradley Method classmates are varied in their lifestyles, ages, and careers, but all feel the same way as Cody and I do about the nature of birth and the importance of planning a child’s entrance into the world and preparing the body for delivery. All of us ladies are due within a couple of months of each other. In fact, one of our classmates was in labor during our meeting Thursday night. She successfully delivered her baby girl without medication about thirty minutes after class was over. So encouraging! We connect through email and Facebook and it will be so inspiring to see beautiful, healthy Bradley babies make their entrances in the weeks and months to come.

The Bradley Instructor: Knowledge and First-Hand Experience

Cody and I both have been very impressed with our Bradley instructor. She has a four year old, two year old, and infant, all of whom were born naturally using Bradley techniques and were successfully breastfed. Enough said. The simple fact that I have this woman’s phone number on my contacts list is the source of much comfort.

Nutrition

Cody and I are very aware of the role of nutrition in a person’s overall health. This has become even more evident since I’ve become pregnant and our midwife encouraged a high-protein, high-fat diet at my first prenatal appointment (much like the Paleo diet we were already following). The Bradley Method promotes the Brewer Diet, which is basically what I had been following per Carolyn’s suggestions. The Bradley course recognizes that proper nutrition can drastically reduce a woman’s risk level during pregnancy. Most of the nutritional information covered in the course wasn’t news to me, but it was nice to have some concepts reinforced. Frankly, none of my mamma-friends seemed to have received any nutritional counseling from their OB/GYNs or at whatever hospital-sponsored childbirth classes they attended. I start talking about protein, chugging whole milk, slathering my veggies in real butter, and staying away from excess sugar and Diet Cokes and they have no idea what I am talking about. There’s more to a pregnant lady’s diet than gaining twenty pounds or less so that your pants might zip-up two weeks postpartum.

Our particular Bradley instructor’s day job is a health and nutrition educator for one of the largest hospitals in the Birmingham area. She’s very knowledgable about traditional, whole food diets and the fallacies of modern “healthy” eating strategies.

Home Birth

We are the only couple in our Bradley class planning a home birth. Several times I have sensed tinges of jealously in my classmates as I answered their questions about our experience with midwifery care. Our instructor told us that we were her first students to be planning a home birth and seems excited about hearing how the Bradley strategies perform in an out-of-hospital setting. The course material itself does a great job at addressing issues that might be encountered both in the hospital and at a home birth. I was a little worried that much of the material wouldn’t apply to us since we were the only ones who planned to birth outside of the hospital but nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the Bradley course has better prepared me and Cody to handle situations that might require us to be transferred to a hospital because we are more aware of what we might encounter there. Information is a pregnant lady’s best ally.

Husband Coached

I could talk about natural birth all day long at this point. It’s something I’ve become very passionate about because it is perhaps the most pertinent topic of conversation imaginable as I sit here thirty-six weeks pregnant and quickly approaching the delivery of my first child. Cody, on the other had, isn’t so keen on hearing or talking about vaginal exams, the horrors of transition, or the effects of epidurals on babies. Or at least he wasn’t. After sitting through nine Bradley classes (we skipped a couple) with several other husbands whose wives had drug them there and hearing all the statistics and concepts I have been chattering about repeated by a well-educated and articulate teacher, he’s more confident, informed, and truly on-board for this adventure than I ever thought he would be. I feel like Cody is better able to explain our decisions to questioning friends and family and is better able to help me make educated decisions regarding the birth of our child. As much as he hates coming straight home from work, showering, jumping in the car, and eating supper while riding down the interstate every Thursday night, I truly think he is very glad that we were required to take childbirth classes, particularly The Bradley Method course. In fact, I’ve overheard him tell several people just that. I’ll never forget him mispronouncing episiotomy during one of our first meetings and his shock when I explained to him what the procedure entailed. Ladies, your husbands need to know what an episiotomy is. And, believe it or not, they probably don’t. No one can be a better advocate for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your child than your well-informed, well-trained “coach.”

 

Obviously, the Bradley Courses are geared towards couples who are committed to achieving a natural delivery because they feel it is the best way to bring their baby into the world. However, I honestly feel like any expecting couple, regardless of if they plan to give birth in their back yard or under general anesthesia, could benefit greatly from completing this childbirth course. The information taught will help you stay low-risk, take ownership of your birth experience, learn how different procedures affect your baby so that you can make informed decisions, help you care for your own body during pregnancy and postpartum, and strengthen your relationship with your spouse during one of the most volatile periods in a marriage. It saddens me that so many of my friends and family members who are already parents were never given the information that we have received through the Bradley Method courses. It’s truly a game changer. I cannot recommend the program highly enough.

Visit www.BradleyBirth.com to find a course offering near you.

8th Month Update

We’ve reached week thirty-two. The hot Alabama summer is keeping me indoors with condensation on the window panes and ice water always in hand. Michael Ryan is growing big and strong with bony knees and elbows and several cases of the hiccups each day. I am continually in awe of God’s grace during this pregnancy. We’ve had not one single bump in the road. Although there’s still a ways to go, what a blessing it has been to be able to enjoy wholeheartedly the first eight months of growing a baby.

I started bi-weekly visits to my midwife about a month ago. Yesterday’s appointment went well as usual, with lots of focus on the quickly approaching birth. Our boy is still head down, all of my and his vitals are still normal, and I’ve gained twenty-two pounds so far. Carolyn and I talked extensively about the supplements and herbs I’ve been taking and will add to my regimen in upcoming weeks. I’m on daily doses of Rainbow Lite Prenatal Vitamins with Probiotics, fish oil with vitamin D3, Vitamin C, D-Mannose, a skullcap tincture for my slight difficultly sleeping, lots of fresh garlic, and I’ll be adding alfalfa tablets and red raspberry leaf tablets in a week or so. We also discussed my one pregnancy-induced ache/pain. It seems I’ve developed gestational carpel tunnel syndrome. If my only problem at eight months is that I have trouble hooking my bra in the morning because my wrists are sore, I think I’m doing just fine 🙂

I’ve been putting off finding a doctor for our boy because I knew it would be quite a struggle. I was right. This morning I called six local pediatricians/ family practitioners. None were willing to conduct an interview before the baby’s birth (apparently interviewing potential pediatricians is yet another myth of the baby book), only two were accepting new patients, and only one didn’t object to delay ed/ selective vaccinations or bawk at my revelation that the child would be born in an out-of-hospital setting. I guess we’ll give him a try…

I fluctuate almost hourly between feeling like my due date is right around the corner and forever and ever away. Technically, I’ll be full-term in about a month. That’s very soon. Realistically, I could have another nine weeks to go. Either way, I’ve got lots of cleaning, shopping, organizing, and planning still to be done.

In Which I Get a Bit Political…

A quick glance at Facebook and ten minutes of the morning news informed me that DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act, was overturned today. I wasn’t too concerned with this tidbit of information because I was busy gassing up my vehicle, going to the bank, and driving ninety miles to Tennessee to visit my and my unborn babe’s healthcare provider.

Gay marriage honestly isn’t too high on my soap-box priority list; however, it really fires me up that so much thought, effort, concern, argument, and enthusiasm is put into the right to file a piece of paper at the courthouse (yes, I know there’s more to it than this) when I am legally forbidden from birthing my child in my home and must drive to another state to see the healthcare provider that I and my husband have decided, after much prayer and  research, is the most competent  professional to assist me in bringing forth a healthy life into this ol’ world. It disgusts me that so many resources are being wasted on this ethical battle when I must scrounge pennies to pay for cheaper and better healthcare that the health insurance I pay for out-of-pocket refuses to cover.

Does the sacred nature of birth and importance of the bond between a mother and the life which sprung from her very body not trump a volatile relationship between two adults? If two men or two women may marry  and interact as spouses in public, why am I not allowed to give birth in the privacy of my own home?

 

Pregnancy Update: Our Michael Ryan has made the big flip and is now an upside-down baby, which is a very good thing. Hopefully he will continue to hang in there like a possum for the next few months. Today was my last monthly appointment. From now on, I’ll be headed to Chattanooga every other week. We’re getting down to the nitty gritty now!

New Food Strategy

Food is a very important aspect of my life right now. Not only because I’m hungry pretty much all of the time, but also because my food-related responsibilities are about to increase significantly. As we approach the expansion of our family, I recognize that this time marks the beginning of several decades of planning, shopping, and cooking for who knows how many people. It is paramount that I get into a routine that works for us nutritionally as well as financially while there are still just two mouths for me to feed. If I’ve learned anything over the past few of years of marriage, it is that food is the area of our lives I have most control over and, in turn, has the most influence on our health and our budget. Frankly, we allot almost as much (and often more) on food each month as we do on our mortgage. And I’m the one who spends all that money.

Lately, even with all my weekly meal planning, I’ve been spending around $100.00 at the grocery store each Thursday and an additional $30.00-$40.00 during the week on Cody’s ice cream cravings (seriously, it’s never my idea!), snacks, and eating out. That’s simply way too much. It also recently occurred to me that I’m about to be shopping with an infant. Less trips to the grocery store might be a good thing.

So, I talked to Cody and we decided to re-arrange our June and July budgets to allow for an extra-large grocery shopping trip last week. My goal was to shop for three weeks. I literally spent an entire day planning our menu, looking through sale ads, searching Pinterest for frugal recipe ideas, etc. Sadly, I’m so meticulous about my grocery shopping that I’ve memorized the prices of most of my staple items, so I was able to estimate how much I would spend at each store. I went to Aldi and, unfortunately, WalMart (their prices combined with their price match policy lured me in). I actually spent around $40.00 less than I alloted. Twenty-one days of planned breakfasts, lunches, suppers, and snacks for $260.00.

I plan on spending around $20.00 a week on milk, lettuce, and fruit. Not a huge savings once it’s all averaged out, but anything helps and it’s saving me a day of shopping each week. Hopefully, I’ll become more adept at shopping this way and will eventually be able to spend even less. In any case, it’s nice to know I’ve got plenty of butter in the freezer and a bowl full of Clif Bars and Craisens to munch on.

Between my birthday last Friday, Father’s Day over the weekend, and a basket of food brought over by my neighbor yesterday, I’ve saved several meals. We’re also getting a good bit of veggies from our garden now, so I’m relying on that for sides and supplements to our main courses. I’m hoping to stretch what I bought until July 11th.

Butchering Day

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It was a Little House on the Prairie kind of day around here yesterday. I even donned an apron. Between bean picking and chicken butchering, we felt like quite the homesteaders.

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Cody invited his friend Matt, who arrived with a hatchet, to come and “help.” They re-strung my clothes line up on the hill next to the chicken pen and made tiny nooses out of hot pink string on which to hang the birds after they lost their heads.

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Meanwhile, I set-up our butchering station far, far away from the action. I asked Cody to put up our canopy over the table. That turned out to be a good idea because it rained most of the afternoon. This is what I guessed I would need to clean chickens, having never done it before:

  • gallon and quart sized Zip-loc bags
  • dish towels and rags
  • a candy thermometer to test the temperature of the scalding pots
  • a couple of large pots
  • gloves
  • a bucket of cold water
  • a water hose
  • assorted knives

This is what one actually needs to butcher chickens:

  • very, very, very sharp knives

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We started out using a propane-fueled burner to heat the scalding water. It was quickly apparent that we were almost out of propane so I fired-up the grill with our homemade charcoal and placed the other metal pot there to heat. The grill heated the water quicker and was virtually free, so we will go with that method next time.

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The preparations for be-heading took a little longer than I expected. While I was waiting, I froze two quarts of beautiful beans I picked from our garden yesterday morning. See the lovely purple ones? I was sorely disappointed to find that they turn a normal green when blanched. Oh, well.

pluck 1

Back outside, a steady stream of headless, bloodless chickens were making their way down the hill. My mom showed up right around this time (out of curiosity or concern, I’m not too sure). I figured this was a memorable day and asked her to snap a couple of pictures of me.

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Michael Ryan showed up pretty well in this one (I’m getting huge, by the way). Twenty-seven weeks is about the maximum for chicken butchering. Any bigger and I don’t think I would have had the stamina or emotional stability to handle all this. Also, having my belly squished up against a table for several hours was quite uncomfortable. Notice the pile behind me there.

My 83-year-old neighbor thought we were having a fish fry and came over to visit. She didn’t seem too disappointed in the lack of hushpuppies and promptly picked-up a bird and started plucking. About an hour later I finally talked her into going home with chicken blood on her white slip-on tennis shoes. She said it had been 64 years since she had butchered a chicken but did it quicker than any of us. We were very thankful for the instruction.

Here are some things that we learned during our first attempt at being chicken farmers:

  • Order the genetically modified chicks and hope the fresh air and sunshine cancels out any adverse affects of their mutations. These buggers were too skinny and ate too much.
  • If the water is too hot or if you leave the chicken in it more than about 30 seconds, the skin comes off with the feathers and you’ll have a slightly pre-cooked bird.
  • It is almost impossible not to puncture an internal organ of some kind while getting the guts out. Just squirt it off really good with the water hose.
  • Chickens stink real bad. I had all intentions of doing most of the work after they were killed, but found that my pregnancy-induced hound dog nose just couldn’t handle the gutting process.
  • June is not the most opportune time to stand outside all afternoon in a swarm of chicken-loving flies.
  • The old-fashioned concept of skipping out to the chicken coop on Sunday morning to snatch a hen for dinner isn’t a bad one. 15 at once was a little much.

We ended up with 15 whole chickens in the freezer about 3 1/2 hours after the first swing of the ax. Not too bad. Really, the experience was almost exactly what I expected it to be. Not too sad, but also not too fun. It’ll take me a day or two to eat grocery store chicken again. Probably a month to get up the courage to cook one of ours.

So, here’s the big question. Will we be doing this again? Absolutely. We learned a whole lot on this first go-around. I am sure that our next attempt will be much more productive and much less expensive (I’m going to guess each bird weighed close to 2 pounds and cost us about $30. That’s not economical, I don’t care how organic or humane their time on earth). We will be going with Cornish Crosses or Cornish Rocks next time, not these puny White Leghorns. Supposedly, they mature in only eight short weeks. We will also wait until the weather is very warm before ordering our chicks so that they can stay outside and not require so much TLC during the first few weeks. We’re also brainstorming ideas on how to reduce the cost of feeding them (being more intentional about collecting kitchen scraps, planting corn/sunflowers/ squash specifically for the chickens, trying sprouted barley fodder).

Overall, the McNuggets provided us with a really great learning experience and a little good food.

Third Trimester Checklist

I’m a lover of lists. They cover my refrigerator, take-up blank pages in all my notebooks, and clutter my purse. List making is how I function. Now that I’m pumped up with pregnancy hormones, list making serves as an anxiety-reliever and organizational strategy, not to mention a motivator to keep busy.

On Monday I’ll be twenty-seven weeks pregnant and headed into the third and final trimester of this my first pregnancy. Somedays I feel quite prepared, knowing that a newborn baby doesn’t really need much beside his momma to be happy and healthy. Other days, I feel like I’ve accomplished basically nothing in the past seven months and must rush, rush, rush to get everything done before the Alabama August heat renders me useless for the last few weeks of roundness. On those days, I make lists.

Since I’m being financially forced to take a hiatus from graduate school (another post, another time), I feel like these last three months are going to be the best yet, no matter how large I get 🙂 My number one priority is getting ready for Michael Ryan. I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness for that.

So, here’s the master list.

Things to Buy

2 more sets of Econobums diapers

Hamper with wet bag

Snappis

1 small wet bag or large zip-lock baggies

Several button-up blouses for the beginning weeks of nursing

Nursing bras

Good toilet paper, Cottonelle wipes, etc.

Hand soap, Germ-X, Clorox wipes

Order Birth Kit

Purchase extra items for birth (wash clothes, olive oil, etc.)

Purchase 65″ exercise ball and start bouncing

Camera batteries and SD cards

Things to Pay For

Midwife fee balance: $300.00 by August 20th

Bradley Method Classes: $350.00 (check made-out, first class tomorrow night!)

Doula fee: $500.00 ($200.00 down, $300.00 by by August 27th)

Things to Make, Do, Assemble

Hang nursery prints in correct location

Hang paper blinds in nursery

Make pallet bookshelves for corner

Organize laundry area

Clean-out all kitchen cabinets

Assemble nursing basket for our bedroom (bottled water, burp clothes, creams, etc.)

Clean-out nursery chest

Wash all baby clothes

Wash and dry all diapers at least 3 times

Make padcicles

Make birth playlist

Print just-in-case pre-term labor and transfer birth plans

Pack birth bags (toiletries, clothes for me and Cody, diaper bag for baby)

Food

Stock-up on snacks (Clif Bars, LaraBars, nuts, freeze oatmeal cookie dough…)

Stock-up on staples and meat

Plan birth menu and keep all items on hand after 36 weeks

Purchase breastfeeding herbs and supplements

Make a few freezer meals

Plan some breakfast menu options for Cody

Freeze and can garden produce

I recently read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (and it calmed my nerves tremendously about establishing a succesful nursing relationship). The authors recommended posting a list on the fridge for the first week or so after birth with suggestions for visitors who might want to help out. This gave me an idea. Since we won’t be having any visitors at our midwife’s home where I’ll deliver and won’t be seeing any family or friends until about twelve hours after I give birth, I suspect both of our mothers will be running around like mad women, having been denied the traditional role of grandmothers reigning over the hospital waiting room. So, I’m preparing a list of things for them to do while we’re up in Tennessee having a National Geographic-worthy delivery that doesn’t need any onlookers except my husband. This may sound harsh, but I want to make sure they have something to do and something that will make them feel like they are helping and contributing (and also something to keep them from calling us every half hour for an update). Here’s that list-in-progress:

While we’re in Tennessee, please…

Fill a cooler with ice and stock with bottled water, juices (for me), and Cokes (for visitors)

Finish any laundry that we might have left in the washer or dryer

Wash any dishes that might be in the sink

Make our bed

Feed the animals

Prepare snacks: fruit tray, cut-up veggies with Ranch dressing, crackers, etc.

Clean the bathroom

Sweep inside and both porches

 

Ok, any seasoned mommas out there, what have I left off?

 

Food: 5/30- 6/6

protein

Since this is a post about food, I thought I’d share a little about the role food has had in my pregnancy so far. One of the many reasons I love midwifery care has been the importance my midwife places on nutrition. I haven’t had any complications so far (knock on wood) and, although I’ve started to slow down a little now that it is regularly in the 90s here in Alabama, my energy level and general feeling of well-being have been fantastic.

My midwife, Carolyn, suggests (requires, requests, urges, etc.) that I consume between 80 and 100 grams of protein per day. That’s alot, y’all. A whole lot. Some days I just can’t get it down. Other days, I surpass 100 and eat a spoonful of natural peanut butter just for fun.

A diet high in protein but low in carbs and sugars has been linked to drastically lower rates of preeclampsia and toxemia. That’s reason enough to eat a little meat at each meal. In addition, when you’re eating as much protein as I am, there’s little room for drive-thru chili cheese fries a la Kim Kardashian or bags of Doritos. Of course I indulge, I’m pregnant! But I’ve found that what I really crave are the foods my body needs to grow this child inside me. Never in my life have I drank glasses of (whole) milk but without at least one or two a day I feel malnourished. At twenty-five weeks, I’ve gained 11-ish pounds. I’ve had no swelling, no body aches, very few headaches, no nausea since about 12 weeks, no blood pressure issues, no kidney infections or UTIs,  precious little heartburn, and one very active baby.

My meal plans don’t quite give you a good idea about what I actually eat everyday because I’m eating four or five mini-meals instead of the three listed (these are primarily for Cody). For example, I usually have a glass of milk or orange juice and maybe half of a bacon, egg, and cheese on whole wheat sandwich thins when Cody eats breakfast at 6:30 a.m. I usually sneak back in bed after he leaves until 9:30 a.m. or so and eat again when I wake back up. Milk or juice, ice water, maybe some fruit, and the other half of my first breakfast are the usual second breakfast. I’ll have a snack sometime around 11:00 a.m., often involving peanut butter or Greek yogurt (14 grams of protein in a Chobani!). I’ve been eating lunch a little later in the day now and it usually involves a steamed vegetable of some sort and fruit or maybe leftovers from the night before. I’ll eat another protein-rich snack mid-afternoon, often something cheesy. Supper is whatever is listed on my menu plan and is often a last-ditch effort to rack up on my protein for the day. If I haven’t done very well, I’ll eat another protein rich snack or “dessert” after supper. Maybe a banana with peanut butter, fruit, a yogurt, or a glass of milk with an ice-cold red apple. Cookies and milk are another favorite. The few times indigestion has hit have been after I’ve eaten junk or bread late in the evening, so I try not to eat too much after 8:00 p.m.

Who knows how my body will handle this last and, from what I hear, hardest trimester. Nevertheless, a focus on protein, fresh produce, whole fat dairy, and a small daily dose of whole grains has really paid off for me so far. I feel like my body is getting everything it needs to grow my child and build up my strength for labor and a long and abundant breastfeeding relationship. I strongly encourage anyone who is preparing to conceive or who is pregnant to think carefully about your diet. Not for the purpose of gaining the perfect 20 pounds so that the baby weight melts away quickly, but because it is one thing that you have the most control over during pregnancy that yields the greatest and most remarkable results when attended to carefully and purposefully. Instead of focusing on not eating that whole package of Oreos that you just can’t get out of your mind (I’ve been there), focus on stuffing in all the good stuff that you haven’t included in your meals that day. More often than not, I am thinking about what I haven’t yet eaten on a given day than regretting what I have.

Just a little hormonal rant. I’m off to eat a plate of roast beef. Here’s our frugal-midwife’sfeeissoondue-Ineedtobuyclothdiapers-ohmygoodness-he’llbeherebeforeweknowit-meal plan for next week. Notice the protein 🙂

Thursday
Breakfast-eggs and orange slices, green smoothies
Lunch- tuna salad with lettuce, apple, Greek yogurt
Supper- steakfingers in coconut oil with turnip greens and corn on the cob

Friday
Breakfast-bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on whole wheat thins
Lunch-leftovers with salad, boiled eggs, grapes, bananas
Supper-pinto beans, ham, fried corn bread, fried zucchini

Saturday
Breakfast-bacon and eggs
Lunch-family reunion (make double batch of banana pudding and fruit pizza)
Supper-grilled Dale’s chicken with baked potatoes and salad

Sunday
Breakfast-sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches on whole wheat thins
Lunch-Ranch chicken salad with carrots, lettuce, chips
Supper- Paleo chicken fried “rice” with veggies (use leftover chicken)

Monday
Breakfast- cheesy eggs with fruit
Lunch- leftovers, oranges, grapes
Supper- whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce

Tuesday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs
Lunch- tuna salad with peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat thins
Supper- fried pork chops in coconut oil, honey mustard roasted red potatoes, green beans

Wednesday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs
Lunch- leftovers
Supper- homemade chicken nuggets in coconut oil with English peas and potatoes

Thursday
Breakfast- bacon and eggs with fruit
Lunch- leftover chicken on salad with boiled eggs

Garden Update

Our first genuine attempt at a full-scale vegetable garden has been up and going for almost a month now. We planted almost everything the week before we left for our last trip and returned to tiny bean sprouts and a few new leaves on our tomato plants. We’ve had uncharacteristically cool end of April/ early May weather here in Alabama. Last week we had at least five days of rain and temps dropping into the upper thirties at night. Luckily, it seems that we’re finally over our “blackberry winter.” Clear blue skies and warm afternoons are causing everything to perk up.

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We’ve got eleven tomato plants. I’ve been (slowly) working on getting them staked before they get too big to avoid damaging their root systems. Tomato cages at Lowe’s are $5.00 a pop, so I decided to opt for homemade versions instead. A little Pinterest whimsy, don’t you think?

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I keep picking up cheap four packs of pepper plants. I finally ran out of room in the garden and now several yellow bells now have a home in my flower bed. This is a cayenne that’s doing incredibly well. It bloomed several days ago so we should see tiny peppers in a few more days. Red, green, and yellow bell, jalapeno, and sweet and hot banana are all represented. I cook with colored bell peppers several times per week and they’re often quite expensive. I’m hoping to slice and blanch the extras and freeze them in small zip-lock bags to be used during the winter.

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I actually created two separate areas for tomatoes and peppers. These have yet to be staked and are quite a bit smaller. I’m pretty sure they are Better Boy hybrids. Also, I’ve read several places lately that marigolds are an excellent addition to tomato patches because they repel certain pests. I interspersed them between all my plants. In any case, they bring a little color.

gardening 5

We have eight hills of summer squash and zucchini, all of which have two plants besides one. They seem to be right on track and will be getting big and jungle-ly soon. By the way, the white power is Sevin dust. I’m researching organic gardening methods, but for the time being, I’d rather not have everything nibbled down to stubs. In my limited experience, tender baby leaves are most susceptible to gnawing jaws.

gardening 1

Our cucumbers haven’t done so well. I planted three hills of Picklebush and none of them came up. They’ve since been replanted with this variety that sprouted in about a week. Hopefully they will catch up soon. I’ve been craving ice-cold cucumber with salt and pepper lately.

gardening 4

Here’s my pride and joy. We planted four different varieties of bush beans, only one of which totally failed and had to be replanted (it’s also possible that I forgot to actually put seed in the row after the fertilizer). This row in particular did very well. I’ve had to thin it a couple of times. Another row is sporting unusual purple stalks with green leaves. We should have fresh green beans by mid-June, if not a little earlier. I have a feeling that the first couple of pickings will be eaten up pretty quickly. We hope to get at least three pickings from each row. After they’re spent, we’ll rip them up and re-plant another batch that will mature in late August or early September and be used primarily for freezing. Bending and squatting to pick beans should be great for my birthing muscles, right? Our late summer garden plans also include: small pumpkins in June, re-planting one row of summer squash, and re-planting the other row of summer squash with a winter squash variety to store for chicken treats in cold weather.

Not pictured is the back third of the garden that became a stream during our week of rain. Cody actually had to shovel a few small ditches and that were super helpful in draining the puddles (ponds) that had accumulated. I don’t anticipate this being a problem again this season but next year we will have to reconsider what we plant there. We had four rows of corn that were basically washed away. They’ve since been replanted and will hopefully do so-so in their moist home. The okra we planted several weeks ago made it through the flood, but it is a little thin. Okra plants get huge, so maybe that’ll be ok. Also, about half of my sunflowers are six inches tall. I replanted the thin spots in hopes of having a complete wall of blooms in a few months. Cody was dying to plant a few watermelons.  We have six hills. They’re sure to take over the entire back yard in a month or so.

Garden life without a tiller has been hard work. After the initial plowing and cultivating, we’ve only borrowed my parents’ tiller once to run through the rows for aeration and weed control. I try to hoe a row or two every day. We bought a Friskar’s manual cultivator for $25.00 at Lowe’s this past weekend to help out between tilling, too. It’s a little easier for me to manage than a hoe and is great for breaking up hard ground around the tomatoes and peppers. Hopefully we will be able to save up a little money this fall and invest in a used or clearanced tiller before next spring (however, a fall and winter garden are still very much in the plans). I have a feeling it’ll be significantly larger next year if everything keeps going well.

We both enjoy spending an hour or two before dark in the backyard digging in the dirt. Geoffrey and the cats love rolling in the dust and more than a few bean plants have been crushed because of their horseplay.

I cannot wait to bring in a big basket of veggies and fresh eggs every day.